Young and Stupid

From Matronics

by Austin Tinckler

There was a time when you could walk out to the line of a/c parked and tied and nobody stopped you or put a fence up to contain you. Life was pretty simple and we trusted one another.

Out on our line stood a row of Mustangs, and I climbed inside and felt the aura of combat. Also on the line was a Cornell of a friend of mine — I guess you would call it a PT22 or something — I took my girlfriend aboard, hit the starter and the engine gave out a mighty roar — all the while tied down. I cycled the throttle and felt just like "Smilin' Jack" himself. Not sure if it scored me any points that night or not, but what a blast — revving the engine and feeling the wind trying to tear your hair off. Couldn't fly it without asking, of course, and when I did, was embarrassed when asked, "Do you know where the flap lever is". Hell no! Don't use nor need 'em, so don't press me for incidentals.

I was flying with my buddy in a 150 — big deal — when, apart from the mindless repartee we threw back and forth, I hear somebody calling in, "1300 feet over the Fraser bridge," and I shove the nose down — hell, that's just where we are — grin all around and decide to land after hearing that ceiling back at base is now 800' and heavy rain. Good time to go home. Radio, of course is T*** up, and so I land at a big international the same way I see a big Herc waiting to depart. Controller later calls and asks me to report to tower and reams me for landing wrong way and not having a working radio. I'm duly respectful, but think later that I would rather be on the ground than dropping through the murk asking the tower if they could put down their coffee and give me a green somewhere...

That was long ago and they were kind to us young idiots. My passenger never flew again, but later became my brother-in-law so I guess it is equal.

Our instructors were ex air-force and stern stuff. They would hit you with a rolled newspaper if you were sloppy. But I loved them all. They had been through air combat where it counted and clobbering you was not taken personally. They still had hard times when they had to write a mother in Holland (and get it translated) about how their 18 year old ray of sunshine killed himself teaching himself acro. Sterling guys, all.

I wonder what became of some of these warriors and I am grateful to remember just how tolerant they were and how their voices ring, even now, with lessons on how to get out of that canyon, or save that forced landing — pick a spot. Never goes away. It must have worked because that was eons ago and I am still flying, learning, and loving. This, when it took more than 50% of my earnings to fly — well worth the payback.

Then along comes a guy named Van. A man with a vision and a design and he gives us a mount that has no equal, and we are all hot-rodders in our chosen realm. And what a lovely machine. Just the looking at it seems a tribute to a builders stubbornness and discipline to finish it and fly it. Ot is truly an endorsement to determination.

On my last flight, it was darn cold out, but warm inside. Radio working so-so as usual. The ceiling was about 1500, but visibility a good 40 miles. I was flying under the blackest overcast, like the underside of a table top — solid above — and the clouds were rolling and boiling past in a strong Westerly. Landmarks are very good and I'm following the coastline where the Orcas play and tower calls me for a straight in — wonderful!

When you have the airfield in sight and the elements are telling you that you better call it a day very soon, isn't it a feeling — hard to describe — that we are trading the combat with the weather gods for a chance to do it all again another time?

I land with a very strong wind straight down the jetstrip and come to a halt almost right away. Damn! Best landing in a long time. Wind is so strong that Customs guy invites me in right away for coffee — wow. Don't I look like Yeager himself, with the canopy back, arm outside, and prop blasting the airplane around in a pirouette to park just so? Can you get a boost to your ego any better than this?

An airplane that is a rarity — that flying schools would not let their pupils cast a sideways glance at because it is — what — avant garde? Oh, to drink from this cup of aerial intoxication. I am hooked, I fear. RVs forever.